The New Generation of Classic Short Stories

Vol. 19, No. 4

Certain Women

by Kelly Reichardt

I saw Dinosaur Jr. play the other night down at the Bowery Ballroom. I had been in a funk since my dog died and I had just finished the film I'd been working on the night before, it's hard to end things. The show kind of brought me back to life. All the swirly feedback made me think everything would be OK; things are fucked up outside in the world but here tonight everything is loud and scratchy and decades have passed and good things do endure and keep giving. I couldn't remember where I was when I first saw these guys play. Must have been Boston. What year? What club? I have no recall for these sorts of details but the excitement running through my body put me right back to wherever I had been.
     I've been asked to write something about Maile Meloy's short story "Travis, B.," to tell how it came to be a screenplay and now a movie called Certain Women. I can't say how I first came upon her stories. I think I was sitting on the floor of Powell's bookstore in Portland or maybe the story was in a magazine and I was in New York on the subway. I might have been in bed. Any of these things is possible. What I do recall is feeling the Montana winter way down in my bones. Or is that just how I remember it now having shot those scenes in six-degree weather? I don't think so. I think the cold and the squeak of Chet's truck seat were all right there on the page. Alienation, the comfort of chores, wide-open spaces, and an ease with animals—these things are my bag. The excitement of falling upon them in a narrative so subtle and layered is a joy I'm sure I could tap right back into if I were to reopen Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It, the collection that includes "Travis, B." But as I said, I finished the movie just this past week. Going back now to read that story would be like opening the door to an overstuffed closet where I'd have no choice but to let all the crap inside come crashing down on me. Meloy's beautiful story is in there but so is the most exhaustive day of shooting, the guilt of leaving my beloved dog for four months when she was too old to be left, the ugly fight in the van, the rancher we all fell in love with, the perfect overcast skies, the crazy thrill of finally hearing a train whistle after hours of waiting near the tracks. Going back to Meloy's stories isn't as easy as going back to see a band you once loved and find you still love. It's much messier than that. I have a full-blown relationship with these stories. But to the lucky reader who is coming at them fresh, as best I can remember, it's a really awesome ride.

To read "Travis, B." and other stories from the Winter 2015/2016 issue, please purchase a copy from our online store.